01/31/2003 12:00AM

Stareaux back from long rest

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PORTLAND, Ore. ? Stareaux, who closed smartly for third when she last raced in the six-furlong Diane Kem Handicap here Nov. 10, heads a field of seven older fillies and mares in Sunday's six-furlong allowance feature at Portland Meadows.

Stareaux, a 5-year-old mare who races for Paul Hagamann, won three route races here last season and finished a creditable fourth in last summer's nine-furlong Belle Roberts Handicap at Emerald Downs. The late-running Stareaux can sprint as well as route, as she demonstrated in the Diane Kem when she came from 10 lengths back in ninth to grab third, beaten only 2 1/2 lengths by the accomplished sprinter Ice Angel.

Stareaux was scratched when entered back on Nov. 24 and has not run since, but she has worked well for trainer Jim Gordon and will have the services of leading rider Juan Gutierrez on Sunday.

Stareaux's chief challenger could be the razor-sharp Ionix, who has not been worse than second in her last five outings against claiming company. Ionix, a 5-year-old mare from the barn of trainer Terry Clyde, is coming off a hard-fought neck victory over Touched By N Angel in a $5,000 claiming race here on Jan. 20. Touched By N Angel is also in Sunday's feature.

Gutierrez rode Ionix in her win, but elected to stay with Stareaux on Sunday and will be replaced by Clark Jones.

A possible upsetter is Tupp Up, who has been competitive with open allowance company in her last three outings, posting a second and a pair of fourths, and needs only minimal improvement to contend.

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